When Shawn Alton’s doctor put her on bed rest during her pregnancy, she had one reservation.
“I will be at Kris Kringle,” Alton told the doctor. “Put me on after that.”
That was nearly 18 years ago, Alton said Saturday during the 29th annual Kris Kringle Craft Show at the Hagerstown Community College Athletic, Recreation and Community Center. The show typically draws around 10,000 shoppers over two days and benefits a different local nonprofit organization each year.
Alton attended with her daughter Brooke, who will celebrate her 18th birthday on Christmas day.
“I came here pregnant with her and here she is with me 18 years later,” Alton said. “I should have named her Kristine Kringle Alton.”
Alton said the event used to be an annual day out with a girlfriend, but now she does it each year with her daughter. This year, their favorite finds were culinary in nature - cheeses, dip mixes and a homemade vinaigrette.
Like Alton, Tonya Rivera, 37, of Hedgesville, W.Va., has long-standing traditions with the show. Her aunt, Barb Ritter, took Rivera to the event every year since she was a child. When Ritter passed away last year, Rivera carried the torch, continuing to attend with her friend Kim Everhart, 47, of Martinsburg, and her grandmother, Margaret Clopper, 83, of Greencastle.
“I get a lot of Christmas shopping done, along with having a great friends’ day out,” Rivera said.
She did so much shopping that each of the ladies’ arms overflowed with bags and items. A young volunteer, dubbed a “Santa’s helper,” helped the women lug the items to their vehicle. Rivera is a breast cancer survivor, and said she was touched by a woman, also a breast cancer survivor, who began crafting baskets out of boxes and ribbon to help earn money during treatments. Rivera bought five of the baskets for $10 each to give as Christmas presents.
Everhart, Rivera’s friend, said her house is decorated almost entirely with items she has purchased at Kris Kringle over the years.
“It’s a nice day out. We got here at 9:30 trying to beat the crowd,” Everhart said. “Here we are at 2:30 and we are still here. We make a big day out of it.”
Linda Williams of Clear Spring, owner and producer of the craft show, said her cousin Darlene Strock founded Kris Kringle. The show used to be at the former Ramada Inn and Convention Center - now the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center - where William was director of sales. When Williams retired seven years ago, she bought the show and moved it to a larger venue to accommodate more vendors. She expanded from 117 vendors to 250 last year and 260 this year, with an increasing number spreading outdoors onto the lawn.
“I wish I could make it bigger, but I don’t know of a larger facility in Washington County,” she said.
Williams attributes the show’s success to its quality vendors and diversity of items. She travels five states throughout the year hand-picking vendors and looking for “a little bit of everything.” The atmosphere twinkles with Christmas lights and scents of cinnamon and hazelnut. Wares range from primitive, country and wood decor, to wire sculpture, sea glass, lotions and soaps. All items must be hand made.
“I look for different and unusual. You just have to bring in the best of everything,” she said. “Jewelry is a big ticket, but I’m not just looking for beads on a string. I have a vendor here who makes jewelry out of typewriter and computer parts. It’s the most unique stuff you’ve ever seen.”
Shoppers pay a $1 admission fee, which will go to Easter Seals Adult Day Services of Hagerstown.
If you go ...
What: Kris Kringle Craft Show
When: Today, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Hagerstown Community College Athletic, Recreation and Community Center
Cost: $1 admission charge will benefit Easter Seals Adult Day Services of Hagerstown.